Vernon city council critical of 'waste of time' downtown safety report - InfoNews

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Vernon city council critical of 'waste of time' downtown safety report

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March 26, 2019 - 5:03 PM

VERNON - Described by one councillor as a "complete waste of time" and by another as a "tone-deaf response to some very real concerns," a council-commissioned report regarding safety in downtown Vernon has been criticized for pointing out what everybody already knew.

The report, which stemmed from a meeting between downtown business owners and service providers held Feb. 6, came under fire from several local politicians at a council meeting yesterday, March 25. The report identifies a long list of grievances from downtown businesses on the impact of crime, anti-social behaviour and homelessness in the downtown core.

Coun. Dalvir Nahal described the report as a complete waste of time.

"There's nothing in this report that we didn't already know," she said.

Coun. Scott Anderson followed in a similar vein calling the report a "tone-deaf response to some very real concerns" that affect both businesses and citizens.

The February meeting — that council budgeted a maximum $2,500 for — was a core recommendation put forward by the Activate Safety Task Force last summer.

Coun. Kari Gares said business owners who attended told her they thought the meeting was biased. Gares didn't say whether she thought the meeting was biased but did say the report didn't say anything she didn't already know.

Acknowledging the issues faced by downtown businesses, Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming said it was important to focus on statistics.

"You've got to follow the data and the data is we have more and more businesses downtown," Cumming said. "It's really important that we stay true to what's happening and what we are experiencing, and what we're experiencing is continued growth in our downtown."

Coun. Kelly Fehr said the city had made "significant moves" in response to the issues faced in the downtown and it was a "matter of time" for these results to show.

Fehr pointed out two new bylaw officers had been employed, two new 24/7 public washrooms were scheduled for downtown and the Folks on Spokes program was cleaning up needles from the streets. The RCMP have recently employed five new officers and have funding for a sixth.

"All of these projects combined will take a little time before we see the effects," Fehr said.

But Anderson said Vernon was in danger of becoming a "talk shop" and the city had only made "baby steps" and watered down recommendations from the Activate Safety Task Force.

"I think we need to look at private security and to adopt a real zero tolerance policy for some of the behaviours that are going on," Anderson said.

"I don't think it will pass but I'd be in favour of banning shopping carts," he said. Vernon council made a U-turn decision last fall after a proposed a shopping cart ban received significant criticism and a possible threat of legal action.

Council voted for staff to review the report and report back with options that would address the issues raised.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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